Want Your Content to Succeed? Begin with Strategy

Strategy-ImageSales leads. It’s the holy grail of your marketing efforts. You likely use a host of implements to get them.

You have a website. Maybe you’re using a mix of digital marketing tools, like e-mails, social media, a blog, and possibly, some online display or pay-per-click ads.

Is it all working? Maybe. And maybe not.

Back up a minute.

  • Have you created a measurable objective?
  • Are you executing a defined strategy against that objective?
  • Have you built a strong enough sales story to make your efforts successful?

At face value, the sheer number of digital tools seems to make marketing easier than ever before. Sure, you have more channels at your fingertips, but you still must have a strategy — and strong messaging — from which all marketing tactics should flow.

As SMB marketers, many companies still throw a variety of tactics against the wall, hoping something will stick. Usually, they’re trying to do too much on too many different platforms, with no real ‘what’ or ‘how’ behind it.

What’s Missing?

Strategy – Strategy is a given for larger companies and experienced marketers but seems to be a missing component that is MIA at many smaller firms.

Assuming you have created a very specific objective (like growing your sales in one market by 10%), you then need to determine your strategy or strategies — how you plan to get there.

A strategy is NOT the same as a tactic. A good definition of strategy is: “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” An easy way to understand the difference between objectives, strategies, and tactics is with an analogy to travel:

Your objective: Vacation in New York

Your strategy for how to get there: Take a plane

Your tactic: Fly out Friday at 10 a.m.

Strategy forces you to map out how you will reach your objective. Lacking a coherent strategy, companies often jump right to tactics – doing a little of this, a little of that. Haphazard tactics without a true focus don’t have the desired impact.

“We need to be active on Facebook.”

That may be true, but, does it fit your strategy?

 Work the tools that fit your strategy.

In short, don’t work the tools just because they’re available. This is especially important for SMBs. There is a limited budget and no room for waste. Instead, work the tools that fit your strategy.

Tactics should flow from strategy, and there is where you detail exactly what you will do.

Let’s look a few sample strategies against a growth objective, and a few of the possible tactics that would naturally flow from them:

Strategy: Better leverage our website so visitors take some kind of action.


  • Add lead capture and ongoing lead nurturing using content of value
  • Make sure there are calls to action throughout your site – give visitors a reason to contact you
  • Use and apply site analytics regularly (this shouldn’t need to be said, but needs to be said)
  • Make sure prospects have a reason to go to your site by keeping content fresh
  • Add content that speaks more directly to a vertical market, or your campaign
  • Feature and link to the most educational parts of your site on your Home page

StrategyReach target through thought leadership via online content marketing.


  • Regular and relevant (to your market and your message) content for social channels
  • Ditto above for blog posts
  • Ebook, webinar, video, presentation, etc. showcasing your subject matter expertise
  • Email campaign to share your content in complete or shortened form

Strategy: Leverage the sales team and their interactions with customers and prospects; equip them to better sell what you’re offering.

Tactics: Before you determine tactics here, this is a golden opportunity to engage the sales team in your gameplan:

  • Is there sales support you can provide?
  • A comparison with competitors you can compile?
  • A more persuasive way to tell your story?
  • A different way to approach current customers versus prospects?

You get the idea. Listen, and reap the benefits of their direct interactions with the market, in the form of new tactics, or maybe even new strategies.

By plotting your strategy before your plot your tactics, you will have a cohesive program. Everything you do tactically – emails, blog posts, content and social media marketing – will then be working cohesively against the same goal, in varying ways.

Many companies neglect creating a hard-hitting positioning statement. 

Messaging – You know your product or service is different. Better. Your customers believe in it, and so do you.

How you capture this in your marketing?

Many companies have a mission statement, but neglect creating a useful, hard-hitting positioning statement. While a mission statement typically describes the company’s goals and values, positioning is an externally-facing statement that should directly compare your offering to competitors, and explain why it’s different and of course better. It should also describe, very specifically, its ultimate value to customers.

Positioning is a science and an art with too many nuances to discuss here. But even this simple straw-man model can help:

Who: Who are you?

What: What business are you in?

For whom: What people do you serve?

What need: What are the special needs of the people you serve?

Against whom: With whom are you competing?

What’s different: What makes you different from those competitors?

So what: What’s the benefit? What unique benefit does a client derive from your service?

And the statement model:

  • [Company name] is a (business description) for (audience served) seeking to (special needs of those served). 
  • Unlike competitors, [company name] (what makes us different from competitors).
  • This gives clients (unique benefits clients derive from the service).

Usually, in composing your positioning statement, you find you can’t fit it all in. There’s simply much more you want to say. From a marketing perspective, that’s a good problem to have. So attack it – list out all of the key points you want to make, and below each one, expand upon and capture all of your differentiators and supporting points, one at a time.

Once these are laid out, your marketing team can then easily select and use those points in your marketing, across a variety of tactics, in creative and compelling ways.

A critically important point here: It is crucial that you create your your positioning from the outside in. Not necessarily what you think is important, but what your customers think is important.

If you don’t have insight into that, speak to several customers and prospects regarding what they care about when it comes to your product or service, why they chose you, what they value most about your offering, and so on.

Listen to your customers

To gather this input, you simply MUST have conversations – you should not rely on a written survey sent over email. Nor should you just add a few questions to the end of your company’s annual customer survey. There is simply no substitute for the back-and-forth exchange made possible by a real, live conversation. Like any good interview, you never know where it will lead. Very often, you will gain feedback you would never, EVER get through a written survey. (And also very often, the customer will appreciate being involved in your research, because it shows you value their opinion.)

In addition to talking with customers and prospects, get feedback from your salesforce on what prospects are saying, and from employees outside of sales about what they’re hearing from customers.

After you’ve gathered the raw input from all of these sources, hold a messaging session with a group of your co-workers from various departments. Take the time to brainstorm further, categorize, flesh out, add to and eventually, prioritize those points that are most compelling. Then use them to create a new set of differentiators, a new positioning statement and a new, full set of key messages.

Now, you’re ready to market. You have messaging that is relevant to your prospects, and that clearly sets you apart from competitors.

The perspectives revealed from customer interviews as well as group brainstorming are guaranteed to enhance and improve what a handful of marketing people can come up with alone.

So before you embark on your next marketing tactic, outline the following:

  • Who do you want to reach, and what you want them to do? (Your objective)
  • How will you reach them? (Your strategy)
  • What does your target care about, and how does your company uniquely meet their interests? (Your messaging)
  • What exactly will you do during the next three, six or 12 months to accomplish your goal? (Your tactics)

Taking the time to think through strategy and create and apply strong messaging will help you orchestrate your marketing against specific goals, apply concentrated energy against one or more strategies, and give you multiple selling points to use across tactics, enabling you to reach your target with messages that matter to them.

You’ll greatly enhance the likelihood of achieving your goals – or even exceed them.



The “Be Less Like A Guy” Approach To Marketing

Sometimes, the approach to a problem lies right in front of our eyes. It can be as big as a parking lot.

On the sun-splashed asphalt of our local high school, I saw visual demonstration that proves that sometimes the direct approach to solving a problem may not always be the best course. Typical male thinking, right?

Generally, guys don’t want to talk about problems, they want to fix them. Guilty as charged. And that’s the general issue about how some companies go about their marketing.

Working in agency marketing/pr/social media/whatever you want to call it these days, we’re hired to solve a problem – build awareness, increase sales, suppress a crisis, tackle an issue, etc.

There I sat at a four-way intersection, waiting to pick up my daughter from a mid-afternoon summer music class. Cars to my left and my right were stacking up, some leaving with and some arriving to pick up their kids.  No one seemed to be able to move.

Waiting there, I quickly noticed a pattern. In an area with five rows of parking spaces and an outer access way, all the cars, and I mean all of them, were converging on just one row of spaces closest to the door where the kids were exiting. Yet, with all that available real estate, no one thought of going out of their way just for a few seconds more to circumvent the choke point to access the pick up line.

Except me.

Finding an opening, I went straight and made the wider arc, bypassing the bulk of the traffic. This got me to the front door where my daughter was just coming out. I pulled up. The car door opened and closed and we were on our way home.  All of it was accomplished faster than some of the cars that arrived before I did, but instead of jockeying for position in that single, cramped row of parking, I drove a greater distance, but got my result more quickly.

I realized that what I did physically was what we need to do more of with our marketing. Instead of trying to cram in where everyone else is, we need to take a wider view of the landscape to see where the opportunities for access are. That means taking a longer pause and a harder look at your position in relationship to everyone else’s.

This “do-it-now, get-it-done-yesterday” attitude of business is only getting worse.  I’m not saying don’t hustle. We have the tools to get more stuff done faster, but in the same vein, those same tools shouldn’t force us to truncate the processes of discovery and research.

Similar to many women who like to discuss and talk out issues, what we men tend to do, rather than assess and discuss, might actually deliver a less informed and slower action. Active observation and listening can deliver a faster result.

How actively do you observe before setting off in a particular direction?

Why I Value Strategic Planning: The Story of a PR “Dirty Harry”

Strategic planning. You can’t avoid, ignore, or gloss over it. It’s elemental to what we as marketing professionals do for our clients.

Our firm values planning and presents its approach on our website, and discusses it with our prospects. But something happened last week that compelled me to write about it.

It began with a movie.

When I was younger, I was much more of an avid movie watcher. Kids changed that. Heading out to catch a dinner and flick with my wife was not a regular event. Frankly, sometimes paying the babysitter was almost as expensive as the ticket and the meal.

Now, my kids are older and I’m catching up on a few films that I missed during their first runs. Last week, with a few hours to myself, Michael Clayton caught my eye. Something to do with shady lawyers and unscrupulous global corporations. So much for escapism.

The flick was great. The ending was delicious. But it unexpectedly delivered a glimpse back to my early PR agency career that earned me the nickname of “Dirty Harry.”  As Harry Callahan said in the movie, “Every dirty job that comes along.”

The lead character, Michael Clayton, is a bagman. A fixer. His sole purpose is to clean up the dirt made by clients and family of clients to grease the skids for the firm to retain its big corporate retainers. My dirty jobs moniker didn’t go to that extreme. But I proved myself adept cleaning up other people’s account messes.

Because I went from a corporate background to an agency (note to younger PR pros: best do it the other way around), I had to work harder to prove to a skeptical V.P. and the account supervisor who championed me that I had agency mettle.

The first assignment was to re-pitch a pitch gone wrong. Not the best circumstances when you’re presenting the same information from the same agency to the same contacts but with a different voice. I nailed it. And it got me noticed. What else can this guy do?

From there, it was on to handling more difficult media relations issues, poor project management and understanding clients expectations. All this prepped me for the biggest dirty job: Propping up an alcoholic senior account executive, whose boss took a vacation, right before a high profile client event in New York. The entire project, from the strategy to tactical, on-the-ground details, was a complete disaster. And that’s when it struck me: where was the planning? Where was the collaboration? Where was the leadership?

The project was rudderless, from a clueless client, right down to the agency where no one could make a decision.  And the event was only three days away. So, I started making decisions.

“Do you think that’s the right decision,” the team would ask?  “I have no idea,” I responded, “but it’s the decision we’re making today.”  As the quote says, “Done is better than perfect.”

After three days of hurried, non-stop activity, the event came and went off without a hitch. I was thanked with an on-the-spot bonus. But I found myself mystified about how the situation arose in the first place.

Seeing so many weak links, I came away with a greater appreciation for planning. After this experience, I started asking questions that were more pointed, about goals and objectives and what the client was really out to achieve. That was met with the higher-ups responding with, “Don’t worry about those details; they’re above your pay grade.”

True, the people who work at agencies and clients are only human. Mistakes will be made. But with thought-through strategy and tactics, everyone will know which way everyone is shooting. And when you’re working in the clutch, you’re more likely to know the answer to this question:

“…Did he fire six shots or only five?”




Fight B.A.D.D. (Business Attention Deficit Disorder) with A Five-Point Approach to Tying PR Strategy to Business Goals – Part II

Part II of II

When fighting Business Attention Deficit Disorder or B.A.D.D., (see part one) use the following five-point approach to better tie your business objectives to PR strategy:

1.  Subject matter – The subjects or topics of your PR campaign can be broad, narrow, or anything in between. PR can be used in many different ways to support and achieve your overall business and communications objectives.  Some examples (but certainly not exhaustive) will shed light:

Strategy: To inform and educate:

Tactics: Basic guide to selecting your product/service; answers to questions customers commonly ask

Strategy: Introduce a product or service

Tactic: Intro package to editors/bloggers; press release; tailored pitch for editorial coverage; messages as premise for videos and other social media

Strategy: Support sales

Tactic: Content for sales presentations and leave-behinds (re-use of intro materials, educational pieces, industry issues and statistics); content for content and inbound marketing and social media; content for whitepapers and other downloads;           customer success stories; testimonials for website

Strategy: Establish visibility

Tactics: Proactive content placement; thought leadership pieces; blog and other social media comments; establish a blog on topic and other content marketing; one-on-one interviews with editors at trade shows

Strategy: Enter new markets

Tactics: Speak on platform at national conference; sponsor a published roundtable; content for creative introduction to prospects/media

Strategy: Play up staff or staff knowledge

Tactics: Educational pieces addressing sales issues, business problems related to your product or service; published Q&A interview with company executive

Strategy: Showcase thought leadership

Tactics: Position pieces on industry trends; articles incorporating commentary from other industry members; educational and opinion pieces

2.  Tone.  While there still a place for formal writing in any published content, companies need to get away from corporate/industry speak, a heavy commercial message, and strive to truly be informative — and importantly, more personal in tone.  (Think about Southwest, and how different flying is because the attendants inject personality into the ho-hum recitation of standard safety instructions.)

– What kind of company personality do you want to convey in your communications? Does your industry     necessitate a strictly business approach?
– How can you show how your company is different?
– Can you convey what your customers like most about your company in your content?
– What do your prospects most need to hear, and what is the most effective way to
  present that information?


You can even go as far as creating a company persona, and have some fun with it.  Your ultimate approach will be dictated at least in part by the final form of your content… Will it be a feature article, a staff written piece, a blog, a sales support document on your website?

3.  Placement strategy and campaign length.  Ideally companies should be prepared for an ongoing, monthly outreach program to capture all the opportunities available in print and online.  Like advertising, you can’t just do one PR piece and expect the world to knock on your door.

Your objectives should guide you on how long and how active your PR program should be. If you’re trying to achieve growth via maximum exposure, for example, you’ll need a year-long effort. If you have something especially timely to announce, a shorter burst campaign is workable. We announced an award for health-related company that had zero media exposure prior to the campaign. Through a very aggressive media relations effort, we achieved print, online and radio coverage to 60 million people within a matter of a few months.

In terms of placement strategy, with all the digital media you simply must go beyond your trusty trade publications and their websites. There are a wealth of outlets for your message.  All your selections should be based on a thorough understanding of where your prospects are finding the information they rely upon.  Newer tools like Slide Share and YouTube, as well as the old-fashioned advertorial, should not be overlooked for re-use of any of your PR content.

4. The public part of public relations. PR goes beyond media. While I’m personally not particularly fond of PR stunts, they can be effective at attracting attention. The real question here is, how and where can you interact with customers and the marketplace?

A great forum for this line of thinking is trade shows. Instead of just having an exhibit, plan a year ahead to pitch your talk at national conferences. Or give a live presentation at your exhibit. Hold an event of your own, and involve the industry in a relevant way, as we did with an “Innovation Gallery” for USG’s introduction of Fortacrete.

5.  Investment versus other marketing strategies. How much you invest versus other tactics again goes back to your communication objectives, and how you’ve planned as a whole to attack them.  PR can work alone, but ideally you want true integration across all of your communications tools.  Since connecting with the prospect takes multiple touches, it makes sense that you’d want to reach them not only with PR, but through direct sales and marketing, interactive/digital/social outlets, e-mail marketing, advertising, etc. PR can be the backbone of your communications program, or a smaller piece, again depending on how you’ve decided will be the most effective ways to reach your target.

In our experience, many companies don’t exploit their PR strategy or toolkit to their fullest potential. A skilled practitioner can guide you from the easy steps, to the more sophisticated (like hosting roundtables, or using a PR topic as the basis for an integrated educational campaign). With the online and social media worlds’ voracious appetite for content, PR can be taken to a whole new level – helping you achieve your business goals faster than ever.



Fight B.A.D.D. (Business Attention Deficit Disorder) with a Five-Point Approach to Tying PR Strategy to Business Goals

Part I of II

So many businesses suffer from Business Attention Deficit Disorder (B.A.D.D.), a condition that can strike any part of a company when inattention, poor planning, indifference or taking on too much at one time takes focus away from mission critical operations and initiatives.

One of the bigger victims of B.A.D.D. is marketing and PR. With all that those words encompass today, many businesses wrestle with the wide range of PR and content marketing strategies that can enhance their brand and visibility via traditional, online and social media platforms.

The tools at your disposal to engage your audiences have grown precipitously: social media press releases; on-the-fly video; tweeting, liking, and linking via social media; blogging; and converting via landing pages offering advice and free content. The uses and combinations are astounding.

For some businesses afflicted by B.A.D.D., PR and marketing could indeed be more than just window dressing … more than “just send out a monthly press release” … more than that thing you or your agency does by rote without much regard to “why” or “what’s next.” To effectively capture customers and the media – and make your marketing department look good in the process – you need a game plan.

Don’t we all face more “business objectives” than we can work against in 24 hours?  I know I do. I find that organizing a plan complete with objectives, strategies and specific tactics grounds my work, putting me on the right path of knowing what we’re producing  is true progress against our client’s goal.

It’s not doing for the sake of doing – it’s doing with purpose. Taking the time to think your communications strategies through can also lead to some fun, new creative ideas for getting your message out there (but that’s a whole other topic).

PR with Purpose

To deliver value, you have to know what you’re trying to accomplish (starting with the business plan) and you have to think through all the possible strategies.

Begin with your set of business goals. Most companies’ number one business objective is growth.

E.g., Business Objective: Grow business by 10% in 2012.

Business goals then translate into marketing/communication/PR goals. How can PR affect that growth? What exactly should it accomplish (the more specific, the better), and how should be measured (in website/social media visits; leads; other metrics)?

E.g., Communications Objectives: Generate greater exposure among targets with goal of 20% increase in leads.  Support sales outreach to direct prospects and influencers.

PR strategy (as well as strategies for using other communications tools) can then be built.

E.g., PR Strategies: Examine/expand on messaging to sales targets.  Establish stronger voice in the industry with proactive outreach to traditional, social and digital outlets with contributed articles, participation in ongoing editorial coverage, guest columns, blog and LlinkedIn posts, white papers, etc. 

Exposure is relatively easy to achieve via publicity, if you are committed to being proactive and available to participate in editorial coverage.  And of course, the right content is king. The kind or flavor of exposure you plan depends on your objectives and PR strategies.

Next week, see Part II for the Five PR Variables you need to consider to better tie PR to your business objectives.

20 Things That Happen When There Is No Plan For Social Media

What happens when you don’t plan your use of social media?  The same thing that occurs with any other PR, advertising and marketing communications tactics.  You end up doing the wrong things, at the wrong time, with the wrong focus.

If you don’t plan, you:

  • start doing before listening.
  • think social media is traditional marketing.
  • won’t know how social media fits into your company’s overall strategy.
  • don’t recognize how social media should complement your overall marketing strategy.
  • won’t know who to engage and where to find your audience.
  • can’t know if the bulk of your customers are or are not online.
  • won’t know what it is you want to get out of social media.
  • approach Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as strategies.
  • won’t know the difference between a group page and a fan page on Facebook.
  • believe the here-and-there-post approach to blogging will build an audience.
  • think the number of fans/followers is the only metric that matters.
  • can’t decide who from your company will engage your online audience.
  • fail to determine how much time to spend on social media.
  • believe you control the message.
  • assume that social media tools don’t have a cost.
  • ignore setting accurate benchmarks.
  • won’t hone your message for simplicity and clarity.
  • pass up the opportunity to demonstrate what you know.
  • ignore the fact that social media tools are temporary.
  • expect to only get when you don’t give.

What would you add to this list?

Are PR Pros Paid to Do or Paid to Think?

The+Thinker+Musee+Rodin+green+resizedThis post from new minted agency owner and fellow PRSA Counselors Academy member Dana Hughens delivers clarity to the question of thinking and doing.

Are PR Pro’s Paid to Do or Paid to Think? (Resolutions of a Multi-Tasker)

Posted on January 11th, 2010 by Dana Hughens

We sit poised at our keyboards on client calls, ready to type in a url before the client can get “dot com” out of her mouth when she references a website of interest. We instant message our account team members across the office to provide real-time updates. We toggle between tabs to see if we’ve increased the fan base on the client’s page on Facebook and what has been tweeted about the organization since we checked an hour ago. Perhaps we send one last text to our best media contact in hopes that we can report a “this just in” pending hit before the client call ends.

Confession: I am a multi-tasker. I’m the first to admit that I’m the person walking in front of you at inconsistent speeds and occasionally causing “blackberry jam” because why on Earth would I simply take a stroll to pick-up lunch when I can walk and respond to emails at the same time?

In our always-on world, you might also feel like you are doing, doing, doing and always trying to do more. If so, read on. Ask yourself what percentage of your client’s budget is being spent on doing and how much on thinking? Feel like you don’t have time to think about that? Then YOU especially, read on!

My first agency job was with a small but well-established Long Island PR firm. The agency’s chairman carefully explained the process of billing by the hour. I still remember the examples he gave me which included listening to a client describe a challenge or task at-hand, meeting with your team members to think through and discuss possible solutions and action items, sitting in your office thinking about the situation, driving to work thinking about a client’s business, etc. Of course there were things like writing and editing, faxing (it was hot technology) a release to reporters and building a media list by studying the Bacons books.

Let’s go back to sitting in your office and driving in your car. Hmm. Really? We used to bill for that? When was the last time you just sat in your office to simply think? Or the last time you spent even a portion of your commute to think through – really think through – something for a client? Some days, my office is the last place I can really think. A computer, desk phone, iPhone and blackberry ring, ding and ping too much for uninterrupted thought. And time in the car? That’s for conference calls, phoning-in action items to team members, making the reservation for the last-minute client dinner, calling to change my flight and cancel my hotel since the last-minute client dinner means I have to shift the travel for the other client meeting to early the next morning. Do, do, do!

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mobile devices and the sense of 24/7 connectivity. Remember, I admitted I have a problem, and if you have received an email from me during the wee hours of the morning or have seen me wearing my wrist brace for what I have termed “Twitteritis” then you know it’s true. In the name of exceptional client service, it’s time to stop the madness.

I’ve spent some time thinking about the doing vs. thinking ratio for my clients. We can’t ignore that the doing is extremely important. Our clients expect us to execute and deliver on the metrics, which I would argue are the results of our strategic thinking.

It’s been more than 15 years since that Long Island PR firm chairman explained billable hours to his new account coordinator. I still enjoy crafting a release and earning the satisfaction of well-planned pitch, as well as managing a team, new business development and all the things that have come with double-digit years of experience. Focusing on thinking more as a strategic counselor does not mean that I have to be any less hands-on or that I just sit in my office doing nothing. However, it does mean that I’m challenging myself to make uninterrupted time to think – simply think – about my clients.

If you feel the same way, consider these tips:
1. Find your thinking place. It might not be your office. Running a few miles (with no phone calls or iTunes) creates my perfect thinking -without-distractions environment. It allows me a few minutes to clear my mind of everything else and focus on the topic at-hand. Perhaps it’s simply muting your computer, phone, etc. for a designated period of time or walking away from your desk and using a conference room or guest space.

2. Encourage your team to do the same. It can be especially challenging for junior team members to understand how much time to allow for a new assignment. As an account executive, I can remember fretting that I was taking too long. As a general rule, I now worry that the opposite is true for my AEs, and understandably so, when they’ve essentially known nothing other than an instant-answer world.

Help them realize that just throwing something on paper without a clear understanding of the project results in more time spent in the long run. Allow them the opportunity to go away and think, then come back and ask more questions before they begin. Consider defining the thinking time and environment for them. “Please go to the conference room for 30 minutes to review what we’ve discussed, outline your next steps and come back with your questions before you begin writing the announcement.”

Especially when it’s something brand new, try explaining what your own personal process would be for figuring out how to tackle it. I like to tell my team members about holding my own hand. It provides a good visual and allows me the opportunity to tell them that I still have assignments that are difficult to know how to start. When that happens, I hold my own hand, take a deep breath and remind myself that like all the daunting projects that have come before this one, I will figure out this one, too. In other words, I allow myself some time to think.

3. Know that it’s okay. In our hurried world, sometimes it feels as though sitting still is not allowed. And for we multi-taskers, that’s a challenge in and of itself. Accept that it’s okay to sit in your office to think. Perhaps as a new year’s resolution, commit to spending more time with your clients (try face-to-face to eliminate distractions) and your team members brainstorming a topic.

Bill your time for thinking? Yes, you should. Your clients will be glad you did.

Got Klout?

Kout logoI just registered myself on Klout, the analytical tool that measures the influence of Twitter users across the social web.  Klout allows users to track the impact of their opinions, links and recommendations.  Once Klout puts your Twitter stats through its algorithm, it plots you on a quadrant chart and delivers a number of statistics.

I plugged in my Twitter ID, RAReed, and before I saw the results, I already knew where I’d likely end up: border line Casual/Climber (the lower portion) and not Connector/Persona (upper portion).  Bottom line?  I need to be a much more active.

So, it got me thinking. How much does a person need to tweet and what should they tweet about?  Not a new thought, but with so many people signed on to the service, what is a healthy, valuable point of engagement?   The study conducted by Pear Analytics suggests that over 40 percent of Tweets came under the “Pointless Babble” category.  That may be true, but pointless babble scored “shitmydadsays” a CBS sitcom deal.

For the Twitterarti, you know what’s working for you.  For the rest of us making the climb or just getting started, here are some suggestions to either reign in or ramp up your visibility on Twitter.

1. Organize your daily tweets.  Do it in the morning or the previous evening.  I usually take 15 minutes at the end of the day (before I head to bed) to jot down the items that need my attention, so for me, this is a good time to assess what I want to Tweet about.  I typically look at some of the 70 some-odd feeds I subscribe to for inspiration.

2. Pick your tweet times.  To get actual work done, I look at Twitter when I look at my e-mail — morning, noon, quitting time and evening is a sane approach to sharing what’s catching my eye with my followers.

3. What to tweet. I use Twitter for business.  I tend to be more content driven, so retweeting interesting blog posts; posting relevant PR and social news stories; of the day and posting available updates to this blog are the underpinnings of my Twitter engagement.  Depending on the business you’re in, post announcements and events that could be pertinent.  You can also ask questions, but until you get enough followers, don’t expect all that many answers.

4. Mix It Up. Drilling your followers with business-related data with links to longer articles can get a bit ponderous. Recommendations from other PR and social marketing pros are to mix up your Tweets between business and personal.  I’ve learned I need to throw in some balance, such as interesting stories. Honestly, the stuff that turns me off is the near breathless updates of what someone is doing.  One of the people I follow went on about the pending acquisition of a new BMW.  Save it, please.

5. So what’s the count? By looking at the Twitter over users and underachievers through my follow list, it looks like a good daily target is between four and eight tweets per day, depending on your day.  One way around that is to deploy one the available Twitter schedulers that can send your tweet when you’re unavailable.

Like anything else, a good plan should produce good results.  I’ll let you know when I achieve some Twitter clout.

Faster on Your Feet for 2010 with Scenario Planning

From JISC infoNet, a JISC Advance Service

From JISC infoNet, a JISC Advance Service

What could America’s companies have done to fare better in the economic downturn?

Scenario Planning a strategic method for preparing responses to imagined changes in conditions. 

 The art of scenario planning is making a comeback from its early days as a military tool, to a popular management practice in the 1970s.  Addressing different scenarios as part of the annual planning process enables companies to be ready with identified action steps before a crisis or opportunity hits. 

It is credited with many seemingly prescient decisions – including the New York Board of Trade’s 1990s decision to build a second trading floor outside of the World Trade Center.

This year, companies that saw the warning signs early and prepared in advance fared better, some even continuing to generate cash despite double-digit sales declines.  Those that are suffering lament that they made changes later than they should have. 

Regardless of how well they weathered the storm, many companies are now reporting increased productivity, despite fewer employees, with a relatively low percentage planning to re-hire anytime soon.  That’s a negative for the unemployed, but a positive for the companies.  It means they’ve found ways to work smarter not harder (a silver lining?).

How Well Do You Plan For the Good, the Bad and the Ugly?

Scenario planning is a world unto its own, with complicated methodologies and potential dangers (such as constructing scenarios based on too simplistic a difference, i.e. optimistic and pessimistic, according to this Scenario Planning Corporate Strategy Model*.  

Having survived 2009, you may decide to do more future thinking.  Here are some quick questions you’re likely already asking:

• What’s working, and not working, as a result of any changes made this year?

• What should be continued?

• What could use further improvement?

• What wasn’t looked at, that should be?

• How about new opportunities or market trends on the horizon?  Can your company get ahead of the New Year with aggressive effort now?

Planning of any kind takes time and focus.  Planning for multiple scenarios, even more.  But this is planning season.  Whether the business climate improves as predicted, tanks further or stays the same, prepare to act quickly!

* For more detailed reading on the subject, see:

How scenario planning can significantly reduce strategic risks and boost value in the innovation value chain

Future-Proof Your Organization, CEO Journal, Oct. 2008

The Secrets of Successful Scenario Planning, Forbes Aug. 2009


Building a Better Customer Trap Part Two: Give Them Helpful (Not Commercial) Information

mouse trapWhere are your prospects and customers going for information?  And, what non-commercial information are you sharing?

 • Know your audience

As described in our previous post (Part One: Who Cares?), know what your customers want and why they buy. Where possible, augment that with anything more they should know before they buy. Then use all of this in your marketing content.

For example, our client, CAPSYS Technologies, recently published an entire book applying this exact principle.  “ECM Buyer Beware: Real Insights and Answers for Decision Makers” encapsulates more than 20 years of knowledge, insights and real-world solutions facing companies trying to manage paper and electronic data using  enterprise content management (ECM) hardware and software tools. 

The author, Paul Szemplinski, methodically walks readers through the in’s and out’s of many aspects of these systems, sharing truly helpful details on every page.  Anyone that manages or makes budget decisions on IT systems will find the book a goldmine.  He did it without blatantly touting his own firm, introducing a breakthrough SaaS service from his company only in the very last chapter.

The tone?  Educational and forthright.  Paul knows the business and therefore shared what he knows, for the benefit of the reader.  Period.  The reader draws his or her own conclusion.  Whether or not numerous new customers result, he has done them all a service.

 • Create a program that regularly provides valuable information

The new mantra is value, not just a sales pitch.  While we all know the primary purpose of marketing is to sell, in today’s densely crowded marketplace, we simply must give our target more reason to listen to our story. 

The obvious example of this: Traditional ads are increasingly ignored.  Relevant ads (i.e., Google search) are growing exponentially. If we provide valuable, non-commercial information to both current customers and prospects, we build an environment of trust. People appreciate the expertise, and seek it out when the time to buy comes.

Map out a new program that reaches your targets at least quarterly; or find ways to fold non-commercial content into your existing tactics.

  • Let your target talk back to you

Involve your customers in the conversation.  Use online and/or social media tools to create a “user community” that talks to each other.  With every exchange, you are building your brand.

For tips on brainstorming dozens of valuable subject matter ideas for your company, read the white paper: Information: The New Marketing Currency, Go to our homepage www.rurelevant.com, and click the banner.